Viewers wondered whether CBS made a conscious effort to snub Phil Mickelson and other participants in LIV Golf from its Masters coverage this past weekend. But Jim Nantz insists that wasn’t the case.
Before the prestigious tournament teed off last week, ESPN and CBS vowed not to cover LIV golfers differently from the PGA Tour players at the Masters. But as Mickelson charged up the leaderboard Sunday afternoon, many viewers felt CBS did treat him differently because of his allegiance to LIV.
This week, Nantz joined Jimmy Traina’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. There, he claimed LIV played no role in CBS deciding when and how to follow Mickelson at the Masters.
“If you went back and looked at the full coverage on Sunday, including Sunday morning, the finishing up of the third round, our guys were really on Phil,” Nantz told Traina. “Part of it is the optics, when you look at a leaderboard at the end and you see that Phil’s tied for second, you think, ‘Well, my gosh, they must have been on him all day.’”
“But with two holes to play, he was like tied for fifth with eight other guys at six under par,” Nantz said of Mickelson. “He had been covered up to that point, but there was action happening everywhere…Everyone knows Phil’s been a buddy of mine for a long time. There was no effort at all to conceal him or hide him at all…At the end, the leaderboard looks like, ‘Well, he should have gotten that much coverage because he finished second.’ But you don’t know how it’s all going to play out in the end. There was no effort at all by anybody at CBS to treat anyone any differently.”
With the LIV vs PGA Tour narrative at the Masters, there was potential for some tense or awkward moments at Augusta National this past weekend. But CBS did its best to keep the focus on the Masters, rather than the PGA Tour’s rivalry with the controversial Saudi Arabia-funded LIV tour.
It’s hard to fact check Nantz on his claim that CBS didn’t seek to avoid covering Mickelson or other LIV golfers unless they really needed to. But many viewers disagreed with Nantz, including CBS employee Boomer Esiason, who said on his WFAN show earlier this week that the network “did treat the LIV golfers differently” throughout its coverage from Augusta.
Mickelson has always been a media darling at the Masters, and the 52-year-old having a historic fourth round is something CBS would typically relish. According to Nantz, however, any tempered attention surrounding Mickelson’s a second-place finish should be blamed on the timing of his late surge at the Masters, not his ties to Saudi Arabia and LIV.